Travel

Funky Flower: DC’s Big Bloom

For the first time in three years, one of the largest flowers in the world is blooming at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory.

photo: Courtesy of U.S. Botanic Garden


In Washington, D.C., right now, crowds are gathering around something huge, pungent, and slow-moving. No, this isn’t a joke about politics. For the first time in three years, one of the largest flowers in the world is blooming at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory.

The Amorphophallus titanum (we’ll leave the Latin translation up to you and Google) is native to Indonesian rainforests and goes by two unflattering but descriptive nicknames—“the corpse flower” and “the stinky plant.” Its scent is a combination of garlic, dirty diapers, and rotting flesh—apparently irresistible to pollinators. But the bloom is magnificent: a petal-like maroon spathe filled with hundreds of flowers at the base of a large spike called a spadix.

The conservatory’s corpse flower reaches over seven feet. It began opening on Tuesday and is expected to bloom until Friday. Once it reaches the end of the cycle, it will collapse. Such gigantic flowers require the plant to store energy for years before unfolding. This one may not bloom again for years—so see it while you can.

Admission to the conservatory is free, and it will stay open until 11 p.m. tonight and as long as peak bloom lasts. Can’t make it to DC? Watch the conservatory’s live flower feed.

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